By Ann C. Logue
Commonfund is an untraditional leader in endowment investing. It is a non-profit organisation founded in 1971 with a $2.8 million Ford Foundation grant. Its objective was to improve the way that colleges and universities managed money so that they could serve their missions better.
At that time, the Modern Portfolio Theory was coming into vogue, changing the approach that many professional investors took towards running for-profit portfolios. Philanthropic accounts, by contrast, were often run by people with more sincerity than financial sophistication. Donors were sometimes allowed to recommend investments, and safety trumped prudent performance. That changed, in part due to Commonfund’s work, and university endowments are now among the most sophisticated institutional investors.
Forty years later, Commonfund is an organisation with four parts: traditional stock and bond management through commingled accounts and an outsourced investment office service; funds of funds...